People do crazy things when they're in love. People also do crazy things after they have an early morning colonoscopy.
One of my main concerns after I received my ulcerative colitis (UC) diagnosis was how I would be accepted in relationships — or if I would be accepted at all. This is a common worry among those of us with UC. We crave interpersonal and intimate relationships but are left with the worry of how a potential partner will react.
A few years ago, I treated myself to some shock therapy. This happened completely by accident — well, not completely — but changed my outlook on dating with UC.
I decided to go speed dating roughly six hours after having a colonoscopy.
Starting the year off right with a routine colonoscopy
I had been living in Chicago for about eight months when my gastroenterologist (GI) scheduled my scope for mid-January.
If there's anything to know about Chicago in January, it's a very bleak time. There's next to no sunlight, it's bitterly cold, and you spend a lot of time inside. When I was single, I'd mostly spend time at home, alone, with my cat and some takeout. This January, I was eager to do anything with anyone, just to get out of my apartment.
The colonoscopy would be a great start, I thought. It was like having a weekend, mid-week.
Making friends who make crazy plans
Being new to Chicago, most of my friends were people I had met at work. There was one gal I worked with quite a bit, and we became fast friends. She was someone who could get anyone out of their shell. So, of course, she found out about a speed dating event and signed us up.
I always wanted to experience speed dating, hoping something Hollywood-esque would occur, and I'd meet the man of my dreams because we both were dragged to the event by a friend.
She told me the date of the event — a random Wednesday in January, not thinking it was the same day as my colonoscopy — and I paid her my ticket.
Speed dating after twilight drugs
Once I realized the scheduling overlap, I decided that having a colonoscopy on the same day of the speed dating event would be manageable. I figured since my colonoscopy was early in the morning, and speed dating didn't start until 6 p.m., I'd have plenty of time to recover and feel normal again.
Turns out, I would not.
Once I arrived for my scope, my anesthesiologist told me they wouldn’t fully knock me out — for the first time, I’d be getting twilight drugs instead. I almost went into hysterics. Thankfully, though, I mustered up some courage and quickly forgot about the entire experience — the colonoscopy went off without a hitch.
Later that night, my friend and I arrived at the restaurant for the speed dating event. I knew I couldn't drink alcohol after receiving twilight drugs earlier in the day, so I handed my drink tickets to my friend and grabbed myself a Shirley Temple. If I couldn't drink, I could at least look like I was, right?
Soon enough, the women sat down, and the guys prepared to rotate around the room. I was nervous, but also oddly confident. (I don't think the drugs had worn off entirely.)
Each "speed date" went about the same. Hi, how are you, how did you get dragged into this, what movies do you like, oh, time's up! But there was one common thing I noticed each potential bachelor asked me when they sat down: "What are you drinking?"
Not wanting to lie, I said a Shirley Temple. Then, I got hit with, "Oh, you don't drink?" and "Why aren't you drinking?" and "Do people actually still order those?"
When I responded with "Yes, I do drink," and "Yes, people still order these," I found myself having a hard time answering why I wasn't drinking. With the first few guys, I lied and said I just didn't feel like it. But soon, I started to get annoyed with the same question over and over again. And then, I got fed up with coming up with excuses.
The "screw this" mentality set in, and I started answering honestly. It went a little like this:
Bachelor: "Why aren't you drinking?"
Me: "I had a colonoscopy this morning."
Bachelor: Awkward laughter. Silence.
None of them knew how to take it when I made this big reveal, let alone when I then launched into my tirade discussing my UC, what it is, and how long I’d had it.
But soon enough, it didn't bother me anymore. I wasn't embarrassed to say, "I have inflammatory bowel disease." I wasn't embarrassed to explain what it was. I didn't feel shame (thanks, twilight drugs), and it was oddly cathartic. The guys were awkwardly polite, and would usually comment on how I wasn't old, so there was "no way" I could've gotten a colonoscopy.
The big picture: Opening up about ulcerative colitis
While I hate to disappoint you and say that I did not meet the man of my dreams at this event — not even close — I think it was this experience that led me on the path to advocacy, and ultimately to meeting my fiancé.
This experience taught me that I didn't want nervous laughter to be the response I received when I said I had ulcerative colitis. I didn't My 5 Ulcerative Colitis Insecurities — and How I Overcame Themwant the expression on the other person's face to be one of discomfort and disgust. I wanted to change it.
Now, when I first meet people, I’m not ashamed to open up about my UC right away. And I’ve found that opening up helps me weed out people who I wouldn't want to be in my life. When I told my fiancé about my UC, for example, he was inquisitive. He wanted to know more, and he was inspired to do research. That’s how I knew he was a keeper.